Newhall Incident/Shootout/Massacre, Firefight Friday

In the early hours of April 6, 1970, a series of events occurred that brought about the largest single day loss of life for California law enforcement. From start to finish, it took 5 minutes. At approximately 2355 hrs of April 5, two CHOP officers, Walt Frago and Roger Gore initiated a traffic stop on Jack Twining and Bobby Davis.  They were initially compliant, but minutes later opened fire on the two officers, killing them. Two more CHP officers arrived, James Pence and George Alleyn. They engaged the suspects in a shootout but were also ultimately shot and killed. A nearby citizen, Gary Kness, Marine and bad-ass hero, attempted to assist by grabbing a fallen officer’s weapon and returning fire but he eventually ran out of ammunition and was forced to hide in a ditch. Eventually a third officer arrived on scene and the suspects fled.

One of the suspects, Bobby Davis was located later and arrested. Twinings, however, was able to elude capture until he broke into a home and took the homeowner hostage. LA Sheriff’s Department was able to negotiate the release of the hostage. Twinings subsequently killed himself. Davis was sentenced to death, but California is California, and his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He killed himself in 2009.

Several procedural changes arose from the incident. The officers had trained with .38 caliber rounds while they carried .357. The difference in recoil was substantial. There was also argument that speed-loaders would have assisted the officers in getting back in the fight quicker. Standardization of weapons and ammunition among officers became more prominent.  Speed-loaders were soon approved and issued. New procedures for arresting high risk individuals also came about. Bullet-proof vests, not being standard issue at the time, were not worn by the responding officers. 3 of the 4 officers died from wounds that would’ve likely been prevented with effective body armor.

 

Officer Walter C Frago, 23 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/5056-officer-walter-c-frago

Officer Roger D Gore, 23 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/5590-officer-roger-d-gore

Officer James E Pence, 24 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/10509-officer-james-e-pence-jr

Officer George M Alleyn, 24 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/1153-officer-george-m-alleyn

All four had less than 2 years on the job. All told, 4 widows and seven children laid their heroes to rest.

These 4 men did not die in vain. The lessons learned from their deaths have saved countless officer’s lives in the last several decades.

Blood Upon The Shield, Author Unknown

When I was in my early teens, I remember seeing this poem on one of my Dad’s FOP magazines. I held onto it forever, and I’m sure it’s still around somewhere. The very last part always stood out to me. Jake is being laid to rest today and his procession will pass both the high school he attended and the elementary school his wife works at. There will be a lot of children with questions. Take the opportunity to tell them about Jake. Tell them about Brothers YOU knew. Let them know that although some of us may fall, there’s a whole heck of a lot more of us holding the line, protecting them.

“Blood Upon the Shield 

Blood Upon The Shield
Confrontation in an alley. The Centurion does not yield.
But this time the good guy loses;
there is blood upon the shield.

And the mournful sounds of bagpipes
play out across the land,
drowned out by the sobs of a lonely young wife
and a child too young to understand.

While the killer pleads his case in court,
the thin blue line is one man short.
And we’re one step closer to society’s fall;
another cop’s name is engraved on the wall.

Another state funeral, with an army in blue,
and we know it could’ve been me and it could’ve been you.
We all look ahead to what the future has in store,
front line troopers in a country that’s at war.

At war with itself and at war with its cops and we’re
out there every day ’cause the battle never stops.
It’s not the way it is on TV shows or like
we learned in school; no cool music in the background,
no playing by the “rules;”

We’re disillusioned warriors,
but for right we’ll always strive.
We just pray that at the end of our stress-filled day
we’ll get back home alive.

You stand out on the corner
ignoring the insults and the stares,
close to the point of believing that no one really cares,
when a six year-old boy walks over after watching
you for awhile, reaching out to shake your hand,
on his face a friendly smile.

To him you are a hero,
a protector of our land, and he wants
to learn about you,
as a cop and as a man.

And when he asks you why your badge is covered
by a black elastic band,
tell him about our Brother
A cop who made a stand.

Author Unknown 

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A Brother Was Killed Today

I’ve been in this job for almost 10 years. I’ve been around cops since the day I was born. I grew up hearing stories from my Dad about cops he knew who had been killed in the line of duty. Men he respected. Men he admired. Real cop’s cops. The kind of men he loved working along side. In my 32 years, I’ve never known a cop who was killed in the line of duty. Maybe that’s a blessing in itself. All the men my Dad talked about died years ago. All the cops I heard about in the news died so far from here. The cops that died near me always died in the city. I always knew it could happen here. I’m not stupid. But a part of me thought we were too lucky, too blessed to have that happen.

Today, Deputy Jacob Pickett, Boone County, Indiana, was shot while in foot pursuit of a wanted suspect. He had no chance of recovery. I’ve known Jacob for years. We went to school together. We worked together briefly. Even after he left, I responded to a call and, lo and behold, he was on scene. I tried to talk him into coming back to us. I wanted him with us, in our home county, but he was too loyal to Boone and too loyal to his K9. We shook hands that night and parted ways with a promise to grab a beer sometime. We never did.

He leaves behind a wife and two children. He left behind a broken hearted department. He leaves behind a community recently rocked by tragedy.

He also left behind a legacy. A legacy of bravery and dedication. A legacy of hard work and determination. And a physical legacy in the organs he promised to donate if this ever occurred. Somewhere today, lives were forever changed for the better because Jake was a giver. Tonight, Jake’s lungs will help someone breathe a little easier and his heart will beat in someone else’s chest, continuing his legacy of service. If only his liver could go to his brothers, who will no doubt join me in a solemn moment of reflection and an evening drinking to his memory.

In a true testament to the men and women of this profession, his coworkers will don their uniforms tomorrow, before the sun comes up. They’ll pull their vest on, buckle their duty belt, and holster their weapon. They’ll patrol the same streets where it all started today. They’ll do the same job Jake did today. And god willing, they’ll come home. Why do they do it? At some point in our lives, we’ve all realized how important the job is. If we don’t do it, if guys like Jacob don’t do it, who will? We don’t want a world without Deputy Pickett’s willing to give it all for the greater good. And we better be damn thankful.

Rest Easy, Jake. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

The Night I Got Hit By A Car, What’s That? Wednesday

Ten years ago, this clock was hanging on the wall of a Family Video. That night, I was working, like any other night at that time of my life. I was set to close the store. Part of those duties included cleaning the store. I had just begun to clean up some of the more hidden parts of the store and hopped on top of one of the cabinets to retrieve some items that had fallen behind it.

As I hopped off the counter, I heard a loud noise. I turned and the cabinet holding the entirety of our video game selection was tipping towards me. I was unable to get out of the way and it knocked me over and landed on me. The way I landed, and how it landed on top of me kept me from getting up. There was smoke and dust in the air. I heard a woman shout, “Call 911!”

“Hang up the damn phone. Nobody call 911. I’m fine.” I was more embarrassed than anything. I knew I’d put on some weight, but I never imagined it was enough to topple massive cabinets.  Then I heard a little old lady shout, “Oh my goodness! There’s a truck in the store!” Out of nowhere, a man appeared and lifted this cabinet off me. I was able to get out from under it as I heard sirens approaching. As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone. I never saw him again.  He was either an angel or wanted.

Once I was able to get out, I could see the wall and the ceiling were caved in. The clock was missing. People were milling about, trying to get a closer look when I heard a distinctive chime of the door opening. A woman came in, with a bag full of DVD’s, and casually dropped them off in the drop box and proceeded to browse. I told her, “Hey, you gotta go, we cant have people inside.” Then that little old lady shouted, “That’s the lady who hit the store!” She was either in shock or hoping no one noticed her goddamn Ford Explorer was 3 feet off the ground inside my store! Her toddler of a child even weirdly told us, “I told my Mommy her brakes sounded funny.” Bullshit. Now we knew why it took her so long to come in. She was likely coaching her kid.

The cause of the crash was determined to be “Brake failure.” But she drove against the curb, thought she had more room, revved it and ramped it, and voila she came through the wall. I ended up going to the hospital with a possible broken leg. Turns out, I was just a gigantic baby.

My boss at the time presented me with this clock, which stopped at the moment of impact. We had to close the store that night, but we were open the next day. I wound up with a few days off and an ok settlement. It wasn’t much longer that I left to start a career in law enforcement. I keep this clock handy as a reminder of how quickly things can change.

“What’s That? Wednesday” is a series of posts about quirky things I have in my office that people tend to ask about when they spot them.

Deputy Floyd Tommy Settles, Marion County, IN. Memorial Monday

Deputy Floyd T Settles, a 26 year old Marion County Deputy, was killed responding to a bank robbery 46 years ago this week. This one hits a little closer to home because it’s literally, closer to home. I’ve met friends and family of his over the years and even now, the heartbreak of his loss lingers.

Deputy Settles was a Marine with two combat tours to Vietnam. He came home to his hometown and joined the Marion County Jail before transitioning to road patrol after a few years. He was a member of the SCUBA dive team.

On the morning of February 24th, at approximately 1100hrs, two men entered a bank and disarmed a private security guard. They rounded up the occupants, moved them behind the counters and began restraining them. Along the way, someone tripped a silent alarm. When the call went out, Deputy Settles responded immediately.

Upon his arrival, he was seen by the bank robbers. They took up positions of concealment and waited for him to enter. Deputy Settles bravely entered the bank alone to confront the suspects. Seeing one, he was remembered as shouting, “Drop it, you’re covered!” He was answered with a barrage of gunfire. The suspects then fled in a stolen vehicle with a hostage from inside the bank.

The second officer on scene had seen Deputy Settles enter the bank. He heard the shots and ran in only to find Settles already wounded. He called for assistance. Despite first aid rendered on scene and quick transport to a local hospital Deputy Settles succumbed to his wounds.

The suspects fled, eventually releasing the hostage by having her jump from the vehicle. Both were subsequently captured, convicted, and sentenced to life. Large letter writing campaigns to the parole boards over the years have thus far ensured no early release.

Deputy Settles was laid to rest with a 2 1/2 mile procession through the city of Indianapolis on a beautiful February day. A 10 minute radio silence was observed in honor of his life and service.

Deputy Settles left behind an ex-wife, his parents, 3 siblings, and an unborn child.

Take a moment this Monday to remember the bravery and sacrifice of Marion County Deputy Floyd Tommy Settles. A man who when he knew people were in danger chose to make entry into a dangerous situation to save lives. May his memory be a blessing.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/12042-deputy-floyd-thomas-settles

http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPS/IMPD/About/Memoriam/Pages/FloydSettles.aspx

Norco, California, 1980, Firefight Friday

NorcoWe’ve all heard about the North Hollywood shootout in 1997. Have you ever heard about the Norco, California shootout in 1980?

In Norco, California, on May 9, 1980, FIVE bank robbers attempted a robbery of a Security Pacific Bank. Heavily armed with shotguns, handguns, an AR-15, an HK-91, an HK-93, and even IEDs, 4 men made entry on the bank, while one waited outside. Before it was over, 1 Deputy and 2 robbers would be dead. Nine officers were wounded, over 30 police cars were damaged, and a police helicopter had even taken fire.

Their plan started going wrong when an employee at a competing bank observed the robbers go in. She called the police immediately. Glyn Bolasky, a Deputy with Riverside County, arrived first. The lookout alerted the men inside and they exited and immediately started firing at Bolasky. He was able to put his vehicle in reverse and withdraw. He took cover and immediately returned fire. The robbers fled the scene in their van, but did not cease firing at Bolasky. Bolasky was able to fire a shot into the vehicle and strike the driver in the back of the head. The vehicle lost control and crashed. The robbers then had to proceed on foot. With over 200 rounds fired in Bolasky’s direction, his vehicle was struck 47 times. Bolasky was also shot multiple times in the face, shoulder, forearms, and elbow.

Two officers arrived on scene and while one engaged the shooter, the other successfully evacuated Bolasky. After commandeering another vehicle, the remaining 4 robbers engaged in a shootout with officers eventually damaging 33 cars and a helicopter with their small arms and their improvised explosive devices. Managing to get a significant distance from the officers, they stopped and established an ambush point on the road. Responding officers were only armed with .38 revolvers and 12 gauge shotguns, the standard loadout for officers of the time. Prior to the attack, Riverside Deputy James Evans radioed to other officers that he sensed an impending ambush. Evans, a Green Beret Veteran of the Vietnam War, did what he could with what he had. He attempted to engage the suspects with his revolver at a distance of over 50 yards. After reloading, and exposing himself to continue firing, he was shot through the eye with a rifle and died instantly.

Not until San Bernardino Deputy DJ McCarty brought an AR-15 to the fight did the suspects disengage and flee the scene. They fled into the woods and were captured the next day. One of the remaining 4 was killed in another shootout before capture.

The remaining 3 were convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

A few lessons learned from this incident still affect law enforcement today. After the ammunition limitations of the 6-shot revolver proved to be a problem, many agencies in the area began the transition to semi-automatic 9mm and .40 caliber handguns. The limitations of the shotgun brought about the issuance of Ruger Mini-14’s and AR-15/M16’s to patrol officers. Even the helicopter that received small arms fire during the incident brought about additional training for air units. In recent years, this training was even used by San Bernardino deputies to bring a pursuit to a close by providing effective fire from the air.

Does your agency issue rifles? Rifle rated armor? If not, do you supply your own? What do you think still needs to be done to prepare for incidents like this?

In an effort to better organize and provide my blog some direction, I’ll be using Fridays to detail some of law enforcement’s most significant shoot-outs. Any suggestions for lesser known incidents?

I sourced Wikipedia and a Massad Ayoob article for some of these details.

 

Signed Red Ranger Legacy Helmet, What’s That? Wednesday

Take a minute and think back to your childhood. Think about the shows you watched as a kid. If you had to pick one show, more than any other show, that defines your childhood what would it be?

For me, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was that show. Man, I couldn’t get enough of it. The heroes fighting the villains. The badass uniforms. The fact that 5 kids were selected and the idea that average people sometimes are called to incredible things. The magic of it all resonated with me. I collected the toys, the magazines, the McDonald’s giveaways. I had watches, trading cards, you name it. I had a brother who worked at K-Mart who would keep an eye on the stock before it hit shelves and would buy me the toys. Man, it was a wonderful part of my childhood. Eventually I grew out of it. I hadn’t thought much about it until the dark gritty remake trailer hit the internet. It sucked me back in. A few years later I heard a new movie was coming out. Then I saw the Red Ranger Legacy Helmet. I knew I had to have it. I couldn’t afford the $400 remakes so I watched Amazon like a hawk. I scored mine for like $60 AND had amazon rewards points to cover it. Basically free! The day it came in I was a kid all over again. I came home on duty when my girlfriend told me it arrived. Opening it was exhilarating. But wait…it gets better.

I knew Austin St. John had left show business to be a paramedic. I always thought that was cool. Then he was a medic overseas! But he had finally come back to the nerd circuit. He was coming to my hometown for a comic-con. I proudly took my helmet, like a thousand other people, and waited to meet him. We had a stroller and two little boys. He called us to the front of the line because he knew the struggles of keeping kids waiting. And then he took my son, treated him like he was one of his own kids, let him help hold the marker while he signed the helmet, and chatted with him for a few minutes. My kid was awe struck. “Jason” was as cool in real life as he was on the show. I was double awe-struck. The level of kindness Austin St John showed a couple of strangers almost choked me up.

Fast forward to a Days of the Dead convention a few months later. Steve Cardenas was coming. I have no idea why he comes to zombie/horror conventions but let’s not get hung up on details. I’d been in training all day and was still in BDU’s. I snagged the helmet, on a rainy day, and did everything in my power to keep it dry. I rolled up in a marked car, got out with a helmet to MANY stares, and had to get in past the gawking smokers crowding the door. I bee lined for Cardenas table expecting a long line. I guess I was early and got to walk right up. I’m a 32 year old man looking at one of his childhood heroes. I didn’t have any kids with me. God, I must’ve looked like a weirdo. So, I made sure to tell him, “I’m totally not a weirdo.” Which is exactly what a weirdo WOULD say. He eased my worries by telling me how he was the same way recently meeting Ralph Maccio. Anywho, he signed my helmet, let me take a picture with him, and I was on my way.

I’m torn now between keeping the helmet with just the Jason and Rocky sigs or getting more rangers signed on the red helmet. Such a nerd dilemma. If you ever get a chance to meet Steve Cardenas or Austin St John, do it. They’re were both great to meet and didn’t disappoint at all.

*”Whats That? Wednesday” will be a weekly blog post where I write about things I display in my office that people often point at and ask, you guessed it, “What’s that?”